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Vickless a key offensive weapon for Brentwood

| Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
Jeff Healy | For the Tribune-Review
Brentwood's Billy Madeja works on a drill during practice Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, at Brentwood.
Jeff Healy | For the Tribune-Review
Brentwood's Justin Vickless works on a drill during practice Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, at Brentwood.
Jeff Healy | For the Tribune-Review
Brentwood coach Kevin Kissel leads practice Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, at Brentwood.
Jeff Healy | For the Tribune-Review
Brentwood's Billy Madeja works on a drill during practice Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, at Brentwood.
Jeff Healy | For the Tribune-Review
Brentwood's Connor McWilliams works on a drill during practice Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, at Brentwood.
Jeff Healy | For the Tribune-Review
Brentwood's Cody Conroy works on a drill during practice Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, at Brentwood.

Brentwood lost 10 starters to graduation from last year's WPIAL Class A playoff team.

However, the 2013 squad is anchored by a trio of returning senior all-conference players in Justin Vickless, Josh Gallagher and Jeremy Cenci.

After bursting onto the scene as a freshman in 2010, Vickless, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound running back/defensive back, has been a 1,000-yard rusher in each of the past two seasons.

He accounted for 1,648 yards in total offense in 2012 and, for the second year in a row, led the Spartans in rushing, with 1,521 yards and 18 touchdowns; receiving, with 15 receptions for 127 yards and two touchdowns; and scoring, with 21 touchdowns.

Vickless, who has a 4.6 time in the 40 and has scored 50 career touchdowns, needs only 67 yards to reach the 3,000-yard mark in career rushing.

“He's the key to our team. We'll be featuring him,” coach Kevin Kissel said. “We cannot afford to lose him. We have to keep him healthy all year.

“He's shown great improvement in the weight room. It's going to be a big year for him. We need for him to have a big year.”

Vickless is receiving college interest from several Division I-FCS schools.

Gallagher is a 6-2, 240-pound offensive lineman/middle linebacker, and a third-year starter at right tackle.

“He's a pretty big kid, We're going to need him to go both ways for us,” Kissel said. “He's tough. We're expecting a big year from him.”

Cenci is a 5-11, 200-pound center/middle linebacker. He is a third-year starter and was considered an “unsung” player for the Spartans last season.

“(Cenci) had a great year. He played just about every play offensively for us,” Kissel said. “Without pads, he looks like a running back. He's a great technician. He has a strong lower body.”

A key newcomer to the starting lineup is Connor McWilliams, a 6-2, 185-pound sophomore quarterback.

McWilliams is taking over for the graduated Chris Shortley, who passed for 1,050 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.

“Connor's big kid. He really grew in the offseason,” Kissel said. “He's making some big strides. He has a good arm, a strong arm. He can stand back there in the pocket.”

McWilliams and Vickless will be joined in the backfield by senior Ryan Shortley and junior Bill Madeja, who will share time at fullback.

David Bushman is a senior tight end, while senior Jack Murano and sophomore Pat Carr are wide receivers.

“(Carr) is a track guy. He's one of the fastest kids on the team,” Kissel said.

Across the offensive line, the starters are Gallagher, at right tackle; junior Brendan Mulholland, at right guard; Cenci, at center; junior Tyler Stadelman, at left guard; and junior Cody Conroy, at left tackle.

Conroy, an imposing 6-7, 220-pound lineman, is the half-brother of former Brentwood tight end star Mike Kish, now a freshman at Akron.

“Conroy could be a big part of our team,” Kissel said. “He can run; we need him to go both ways.”

Most of the starters on offense also will have integral roles on defense.

“It looks like they will flip around,” Kissel said. “The more guys we have play, the better we'll be as a team.”

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